On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her. This is just the beginning. Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard. For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
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Women only have 100 words a day before the counter on their wrists begin
I should have known the moment I cracked open my Kindle and this book was in first person present tense, with a monotone narrator. In THT, it turns out this is because our narrator is experiencing PTSD from being
In Vox, it's clear the author wants us to see that Jean is experiencing a similar shock reaction to her own admittedly horrific captivity of enforced silence under threat of torture and death yadda yadda. But it doesn't work. Atwood makes us feel the nameless narrator's horrors viscerally. In Vox, we understand the horror, but its depths never really horrify enough, even though they should.
That may be in part due to the stupidest choice the author makes: a 100% happy fucking ending. Its not even bittersweet, because the book kills off its only complex character so that Jean and Lorenzo can be together. And it rescues everyone important to Jean and everyone she thought would be dead. Yay! They're all alive and back from the salt mines, none the worse for wear!
Gag me with a spoon.
Let's list the things the author ripped off from THT, at least the ones I remember off the top of my head, since I'm typing on a phone
1. Christian right wing extremist revolution with fascist implementation of extremist values such as strict patriarchy and an emphasis on marriage, babies, and women's silence.
2. Dissenters and LGBT are sent off to inhospitable wastelands for hard labor, as are unmarried women with no family to live with.
3. The Resistance, and the narrator accidentally falling into it.
4. Having a lover on the side for dangerous trysts.
5. Jackie = Moira. Straight ripoff. Entire character and storyline.
6. Sneaking and breaking into the man of the house's papers and secrets.
Meh. And the plot...feck it goes off the rails. It could have been so interesting. But author glosses over so many details to the point that I just finished the book and I have no idea how or why the climax went the way it did. Like who had what vial/serum at what time and how they got it, etc.
And Jean's mom suffering the same exact brain injury at the same time? In the end, that meant NOTHING. It didn't affect Jean's behavior or decisions at all. So I thought it would be a straight up plot device, like the Bad Guys had intentionally poisoned Jean's mom to make sure Jean would work for them. Nope. Just a coinkydink! Sigh. Fiction does not have coincidences without a reason.
Another time, her teenage son Steven rats out his girlfriend to the Gestapo for sleeping with him and gets her sent to zero words hard labor for life. Smooth move, ex lax. Jean's reaction? Basically nothing. Dude, your son just became a fucking monster, and you CAN yell at him without punishment because you're working on this top secret serum, but she does basically nothing...and Steven comes back from evil by the end of the book...somehow. Its not made clear. Oh, and he's almost a straight ripoff from The Sound of Music. But worse, because he sleeps with his girlfriend and then TURNS HER IN FOR IT. But don't worry; she's magically back at the end of the book! Yay!
Ugh. At least Atwood's protagonist was an unreliable narrator and we can forgive some of the weirdness. But we are not given any reason to think Jean is an unreliable narrator. She's just flat, like every other character. And like this book.
The characters were weak and I
The plot started off very strong but about 75% of the way through it just lost all steam and everything seemed rushed and smashed together, leaving nearly everything to the imagination. A vast majority of the issues and complaints and questions I have all come back to the last 25% of the novel. Prior to this point, I was reading and expecting a four star read but the ending was so sloppy it heavily effected my enjoyment of the novel.
Mainly, I feel had everything been developed more, this could have been a FANTASTIC novel. That being said, I did give this book 3 stars and I really did enjoy the concept. I would recommend it, just go in with lower expectations.
Before all of these changes, Jean was a cognitive linguist working on a cure for aphasia, the loss of the ability to understand or express speech caused by brain damage. All of her research stopped when women’s rights were taken away. But now the President’s brother is suffering from brain damage and Jean is asked to resume her work.
The only fault I had with this book is that at times it felt too much like “The Handmaid’s Tale”. There are so many similar restrictions. But I felt that the writer does a very good job in telling this story and Jean is a very believable narrator. The added interest comes from Sonia, Jean’s 6-year-old daughter, who doesn’t remember what it’s like to be able to speak freely. There’s one terribly frightening scene involving Sonia that really made the whole book seem so real and possible. It’s one thing to have your own rights taken away but entirely another when it involves your innocent child. The way the schools were now teaching young girls was so tragic.
Interesting story told in a realistic manner. Recommended.
This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Every female, once they can talk, has been fitted with a counter around their wrist to keep track of the words they speak. Every day, 100 words are allowed. Should they exceed that, an electrical shock is automatically administered, increasing with every incident. Cameras
This is what happens when the Bible Belt “started expanding. It morphed from belt to corset” and then finally “into an Iron Maiden.”
Dr Jean McClellan was considered the best neurolinguistin the country, leading research into a serum that could reverse many brain afflictions. The fact that she “was” does not bode well for either her or her husband, who is head of science at the big DC oval. Jean is the mother of 4, the youngest is a girl, fitted with her own counter and suffering nightmares. It has been a year. Other nations both laugh at and feel for the horrendous injustice of American women.
Jean’s eldest son is wholly besotted with this new normal, brainwashed and rising in the ranks of “Pure Men” as he takes on duties and his own form of servitude. Added to typical teenage ‘tude, he’s a pompous little shit I’d smack if I could.
When the president younger brother is stricken with some form of as yet to be deciphered brain trauma, she is called back into service, her bracelet removed, and anything and everything she needs to be supplied until he is cured. After that, the future is again uncertain.
But every government has an anti and this misogynistic dictatorship meets their nemesis, one at a time, in a climatic ending that I felt could have been given as much detail as that which preempted it.
A dystopian novel with a love story tucked inside, heroes blinking into providence and bonds unto death they part.
Thus in turn the story itself was not as interesting as it should have been. The story needed the characters to help it find its "voice". It goes to show however that sometimes you don't need a lot of words to make a point. Finally, the ending was alright. There was no "wow" power. Again, this book could have been so much more.
As for this book, though, comparisons to The Handmaid's Tale are inevitbale, but Vox has a different ambition. Dalcher doesn't pull her punches when it comes to the details of women's subjugation in the new regime, but the story focuses on a small group of people who suddenly realize that they can change everything.
Even that isn't the real point, though. Dalcher also pulls no punches in getting her message across. Everyone: use your voice. While you still can.
In many respects, this dystopia is highly disturbing. Not just because of what is narrated and imagining what happens there, but because you can easily reckon how such a situation might become a reality. Even though we believe to live in a world where men and women are equal and where women have gained their place in work and society, a group of men feeling deprived of their rights of superiority and therefore doing everything to turn back the time, is simple to picture.
I had heard a lot about Christina Dalcher’s novel and quite often, if too many people praise a book I become increasingly reluctant of agreeing. Yet, in this case, I totally consent to the majority of readers. The plot is very well developed, the characters seem absolutely authentic to me and the author’s style of writing is captivating. I especially appreciated how Jean’s eldest son is brainwashed, not for the fact itself, but as a convincing illustration of how easily people can fall prey to false prophets and walk right in the trap. Dalcher gets to the core with her protagonist, she has to make decisions that nobody wants to make and each reader has to answer for him- or herself which side they would be on and, first and foremost, what they do in reality to prevent such developments from happening.
Nowhere can I find mention of this book being YA. But that's what it reads like--which is fine, but YA is, by definition, easier to read. Dalcher's ideas are excellent, but they are not fleshed out--there is so much more I want to know! This book is listed as being 326 pages long. With these ideas fleshed out at an adult reading level, it could have been 500 pages and been excellent. There are several loose story lines that I would love to have seen integrated into the main story more effectively, and then resolved. There are many twists in here, and they come out of left field. No build up, just "guess what!"
All in all, this novel started off with lots of promise. But then it is rushed to a conclusion way too quickly.
Cons: minor things, slightly rushed ending
A year ago life changed for 50% of the US population. Women were kicked out of the workforce and made to wear bracelets that counted their words. When they reached their cap of 100 words, they
A year ago Dr. Jean McClellan was a top cognitive linguist researching Wernicke’s aphasia, an ailment that makes it difficult to form coherent sentences. Now she’s a stay at home wife, slowly watching her marriage crumble, her daughter suffer under the word restrictions, and her oldest son become a misogynist.
When the President’s brother has an accident that affects the Wernicke area of the brain, she’s asked to help find a cure, little knowing that there’s another reason the government wants her work.
The book is very fast paced and only look me 2 days to whip through. It’s first person narrative makes the world immediate and the clever use of flashbacks fleshes out the characters and how the US changed so quickly.
Loss of freedom is always an interesting plot device, and this book touches on real fears American women have during the present political climate. The book joins other US dystopian novels that focus on how women could be repressed like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Veracity by Laura Bynum, and When She Woke by Hilary Jordan.
There are some powerfully emotional scenes, some of which were rage inducing, while others made me want to cry. While I often didn’t agree with Jean’s choices, I could understand why she made those decisions and sympathized with her plight.
While the book explained that Wernicke’s aphasia impairs the ability to speak coherently, it would have been good to point out that it doesn’t always impair cognitive abilities outside of communication. I was left wondering if people who had it would be able to function or if they would have to be put into care homes.
There were a few minor issues that annoyed me, like cookbooks being banned when you would expect they would be needed. You can’t remember every recipe or learn new ones without some sort of help. There’s also a scene where Jean had just under 40 words remaining in her day and she had to make a phone call. She prepared her message in advance but used her whole allotment, even though several of the words she used were unnecessary. What if she’d had to respond to a question afterwards? She’d have had to stay silent.
The ending felt a bit rushed in that I would have liked a more complete telling of what happened. I understand why it wasn’t comprehensive, but it felt like the author could have provided an alternate viewpoint or arranged to have a witness describe the event in more detail.
It’s hard to call a book that does so many horrible things a pleasant read, but it was. Normally dystopian novels leave me horrified by how things could go in the real world while this one left me feeling energized, and feeling that the resistance can succeed if good people fight for their rights.
It’s not hard to imagine a future (present or past) where women’s lives are controlled by men. And how is that control achieved in
Jeanne McClellan was a neurolinguist before her voice was taken away. It is only when the new president needs a cure for his brother that her bracelet is taken off and she’s brought in to resume work on her research - restoring language to brain-damaged individuals. But with every suppression...there's resistance. Vox details a time in the near future that isn't too hard to imagine.
I enjoyed Dalcher's world building. And yes, it's not much of a stretch to see the traditional value, male dominated society. Dalcher herself has worked in the linguistics field and that knowledge gave the plot depth and detail. There's lots of action as the tension ramps up to the final 'showdown'. The author has created a good cast of characters in both Jeanne and supporting players. I did find myself more drawn to those supporters though, instead of Jeanne. I didn't agree with some of her decisions or treatment of other resistance members.
Some developments and plot directions seemed a bit quick, if you will. There were points where I felt there should be more plausibility built in. But, on reading the publisher's notes, I learned that Vox was written in two months - which is pretty darn amazing.
There's lots of food for thought in Vox, mirroring many of today's news headlines. I was thoroughly entertained by Vox and would be curious to see what Dalcher writes next. (And that cover is great isn't it?!)
In this book, the women have been subjugated by men. It seems that they have protested one too many times, have marched once too often, have demanded far too much equality and too much of a voice in the way society is being run. The men have
Although, activists for women’s rights had tried to warn the public about what was coming, the threat to the women had been ignored and dismissed as unrealistic, impossible, until it was too late. The activists had seen the writing on the wall and knew there was going to be an effort to silence them, but their efforts to stop the trend were to no avail. With disbelief, the world watched as policy after policy was adopted in America, to not only actually silence women, but to punish them for behavior the men deemed to be improper. The plan, which was diabolical, was largely designed by and widely supported by the church.
This is really a creative novel, but there is not even a veiled attempt to hide the partisanship of the author’s message. She even alludes to the Kool-Aid drinkers, made famous by Rush Limbaugh. They are of course the ones who are deluded. They are on the far-right. They are conservatives who overvalue their religious beliefs. They are the troublemakers shutting down conversation. (Although today, those on the left are actually shutting down conversation and preventing the free exchange of ideas with their need for safe spaces, the author never suggests that.) The reader learns that the renegade President, Sam Myers, built a wall along the borders of Canada and Mexico, making it just as hard for Americans to leave the country as it is for immigrants to enter it. Women have no passports and can not legally leave the country or travel to another. (Subtly, even immigration has reared its ugly head in this novel. Of course, everyone today knows who wants to build the wall. This author implies that it is Trump who is responsible for taking away the rights of women.)
President Myers relies heavily on the military (as does Trump) and his older brother for support and advice. Family is important to him. This new “young” President (perhaps the “young” description is an attempt by the author to soften her partisanship), has a beautiful wife. It is hinted that his wife is sequestered when not in public. It is hinted that she suffers with the restrictions of the bracelet counters and its consequences, as well. (The author’s description of the wife, reminded me of the stories that journalists wrote that insinuated that Melania Trump, who had not been seen for awhile, was being physically abused by her husband, when she was actually undergoing surgery.)
President Myers is being advised by a religious leader, Reverend Carl Corbin who dreams of a world of “pure” men and “pure” women. He will surely remind the readers of Tomas de Torquemada, the first inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. (Perhaps the author’s attempt to demonize religion was her quiet attempt to jab at Vice President Pence whose dedication to his religious beliefs over science has been well publicized and criticized by the left and the media.) In this book, the heroes use scientific research to try and defeat the religious fanaticism. In this new America, journalism and news no longer exist. Entertainment has been regulated. (These issues might be another possible suggestion that this evil President is fashioned after Trump. He has, after all, labeled much of the news media and entertainment world as biased and fake.)
Today, under President Trump, there is a non stop cry to resist and oppose him and anyone associated with him, regardless of what he or they accomplish. He has been painted as unhinged. Since the book promotes the very word resistance as a positive tool for the left to use against the right, even suggesting the use of violence to stop them, it would seem that the author is comparing and contrasting the villainous Myers to Trump, a man she views as villainous. (After all, isn’t Trump’s administration attempting to confirm a Supreme Court Justice that the left believes will curtail women’s rights, especially their right to choose?) Yet, if truth be told, hasn't it been the left and those that support the liberal agenda that has used violence to silence the voices of those that disagree with them?
Dr. Jean McClellan was told that the President’s older brother suffered brain damage in an accident, making him unable to speak coherently. She was asked to return to work in the lab to develop a cure for his condition. Before she lost her job and was silenced, she was one of the foremost authorities on the subject of aphasia. The authorities gave her a very short window of time for this research. As a bonus, the word counter would be removed temporarily while she worked. After she successfully discovered the cure, however, it would be returned to her wrist. In the meantime, other scientists were attempting to develop a drug to do the opposite, to cause rather than cure aphasia. That drug would be used to silence women and eliminate the need for the "bracelet" counters. It would cause them to speak in unintelligible sentences by damaging the Wernicke area of the brain responsible for fluent speech. Dr. McClellan’s husband Patrick worked in this White House that was rolling back women’s rights, and although he did not support the draconian methods, he seemed unable to do anything about them.
The narrator does a very good job of interpreting each character. The book presents the overarching theme that resistance is good, and should be encouraged, even if it calls for violence. In the real world, it is the progressives, not the conservatives being blamed, that do the loudest yelling and are shutting down the voices of those who disagree with them. They are unwilling to have a dialogue with them. There is also a theme that seems to be presenting women as superior, and men as cruel, weak, and sometimes no more than useful idiots. Since speech was a central theme, I found it disheartening that the author used crude vocabulary throughout the book. There was an unnecessary emphasis on sex. Were the women meant to be presented as preoccupied with thoughts of infidelity and promiscuity? Other themes support science as good and faith and religious dogma as evil. The enemies of women and equality live in the Bible Belt. There is a woman in the book, Jeannie’s friend, Jacky Juarez, who is a jailed women’s rights activist and lesbian. She is Hispanic (She is a perfect symbol.). She reminded me of Carmen Perez who was one of the organizers of the women’s march on the White house led also by the likes of Linda Sarsour. Perez worships Harry Belafonte, who is an avowed socialist.
Do the readers realize what is happening in the real world? Do they realize that voices are truly being silenced, but it is not those of women? The voices on the right are being silenced. Those with an opposing view are being silenced. The left is silencing them in the media, in the entertainment world and in the schools at all levels, even as they blame others for their own sins, and no one is taking it seriously, as no one took warnings in the book seriously. It doesn’t fit the agenda of the day.
Although the book is supposed to be about a fictional world, perhaps in the not too distant future, it seems to be hinting, with not very subtle accusations, that the current President and his administration are both usurping power and overstepping boundaries that might very well turn the clock back to a time when women were only supposed to stay at home and act like Donna Reed, serving the needs of their husbands and their family, over their own. If only the author had been content to write a good story and refrained from putting her hand on the scale in an attempt to make a political point. No one side should have been blamed for the plight of the women. The problem should have been expressed and analyzed, encouraging conversation so that a real dialogue could develop which might help to solve problems, not create them. This book feels like a propaganda tool for the liberals who will love it.
I found this chilling because I can actually see this happening, have seen men on TV who I can imagine loving just such a scenario. The importance of language, speech to snow individuals we'll bring, forming personalities. How can you watch your young daughter not able to vocalize, tell you about her day? For Jesn, it is torture, but a situation arises, and unwillingly Jean is temporarily repreived, because the men in charge want something from her. Can she take advantage, make a difference? Well, that is the story, a quick moving one I was fascinated with. History has proven that with the wrong people in charge, anything and everything can happen. Can it happen here?
ARC from Netgalley.
The United States has been taken over in an election by seriously ultra conservative politicians. Laws have been passed restricting females to just 100 words per day and enforce this directive with punishing electric shocks for every word beyond the allotment. The novel
The plot finally gets going when she is coerced by the government to restart her science project and discovers a sinister plot against women all over the world. The last two thirds of the book is an interesting and well plotted thriller.
Overall, readers who are looking for another “Handmaids Tale” will be disappointed. Readers looking for a thriller and make it through the first third will be pleased. The characters are clearly defined and remain in character for the entire book. The premise and resulting government action is full of holes but with a suspension of reality, the novel as a whole is satisfying.
3 of 5 stars
Christina Dalcher, Author of "VOX" has written an unusual, terrifying, intense, captivating, page turning, riveting, suspenseful and twisted thriller. The Genres for this story are Fiction, Thriller, Mystery and Suspense, and Political
The Government and politics in place have some twisted rules, and everything seems to happen in the blink of an eye. The Women in this story are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. This is charted by an electronic bracelet that is placed on their wrists that tracks words and emits shocks.Very young girls also get the "band" and now go to school and are encouraged not to speak. The girls that say nothing get prizes. This leads to women being forced to stay home, and cook and clean, because they can't get jobs. There is no evidence of birth control, or condoms in stores.
The men are given important roles, and some are entitled to visit elite clubhouses, where there are prostitutes. Any infraction in this society by the religious groups in power are punished.
Dr. Jean McClellan can't believe that this is happening. She has been an expert on matters of the brain, strokes and aphasia. Now she and her four-year old daughter are limited to speaking 100 words a day. Her older teenage son questions her role in the home. It seems that the President's brother has had a terrible accident and they require Jean's assistance. What will she do for survival for her and her family?
There is a resistance, and the people you would least suspect are in it. But, how do you know how to trust anyone? The government is using the top scientists for some secret project. I would recommend this chilling thriller to readers that enjoy this genre. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
The story is a bit chilling with parallels to present day society. Some of the timelines seem a bit far-fetched to me, some coincidences too pat and the resolutions at the end seem to occur too quickly. I would have liked to have had some more in-depth discussion of the other characters, both male and female, and their stories about what they did during the (1-year?) since the societal restrictions were put in place.
The main character is Dr. Jean McClellan, a renowned doctor who had been researching a cure to a disease that causes the brain to be unable to use the correct words when communicating. Now the president's brother supposedly has this and has offered Dr. McClellan the chance to get her voice back in exchange for finding the cure. But as she begins her research with her former team they find that what they could unleash something far more sinister.
This book was incredible. I cannot stop talking about this to my co-workers at the library. It is definitely one of my new favorite books!